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This study covers the United States personal hygiene nonwovens industry, defined here to include materials made from fibers, filaments, and films, which are arranged into webs, batts, or sheets, then bonded together using mechanical, thermal, or chemical means.
Nonwovens are categorized by the web formation process used to produce the material:
spunmelt (spunbonded and meltblown)
For the purposes of this study, sales of composite nonwovens are broken down according to their constituent web types (e.g., sales of spunbond-meltblown-spunbond are reported in terms of its spunbond and meltblown contents).
Historical data for 2009, 2014, and 2019 and forecasts to 2024 and 2029 are provided for nonwovens production (total) and demand (by web formation process and by application) in current dollars (which are not adjusted to account for inflation). Total demand is also shown in square meters and in metric tons.
Totals for nonwovens presented in this study include nonwovens sold on the merchant market. Nonwoven goods used in captive production are not included in these data. In addition, the study discusses impacts for COVID-19, pricing trends, competitive products, as well as the global outlook for personal hygiene nonwovens.
Key application breakouts include:
infant diapers and training pants
adult incontinence products
feminine hygiene products
Demand for nonwovens used in the production personal hygiene products is expected to increase 1.4% per year to $880 million in 2024, supported by:
nonwovens’ well established dominance in personal hygiene applications due to their potential for absorbency and softness
strong growth among nonwovens used in adult incontinence products due to the rapid expansion of the senior segment of the population
ongoing development of softer, thinner, more absorbent, and more eco-friendly nonwovens, which will raise pricing and market value
However, further gains will be limited by:
demographic factors that will restrain demand for personal hygiene products and thus limit the potential market for nonwovens
lack of new hygiene applications, since nonwovens are already commonly used in all of these products
increasing production of personal hygiene products outside of the US, limiting domestic demand for nonwovens
Imports of personal hygiene products continue to grow, restraining US production of these goods and growth in nonwovens usage domestically. Canada and Mexico account for the largest share of imports.
The average price of personal hygiene nonwovens (calculated by dividing the total value of nonwoven fabrics sold by total area) was 8.1 cents per square meter in 2019.
However, individual product prices vary depending on a number of factors, including:
pricing for fibers and filaments, binder resins, additives, and other raw materials
energy requirements and other costs associated with web formation, web bonding, and other manufacturing processes
supply and demand dynamics stemming from different trends in nonwovens production and consumption
competition from other types of materials, such as fibers used more commonly in conventional textiles or paper products
Through 2024, average prices for personal hygiene nonwovens are forecast to tick up incrementally as development of higher value nonwovens boosts market value and rising energy prices increase the cost of production.
Nonwoven fabrics used in personal hygiene products compete with a variety of other materials – including woven and knit fabrics and plastic and silicone products – depending on the application. The decision to use one material over another is primarily based on both cost and performance considerations. Other factors, including technology and environmental considerations, also can prevent or require the use of a particular material.
In general, nonwovens are valued for their versatility as they more easily engineered for customized performance requirements. Nonwoven fabrics can be made to fit a particular application’s requirements by varying fibers, resins, finishing treatments, and web formation and web bonding processes to provide the appropriate level of absorbency, chemical reactivity, durability, softness, and strength. This flexibility makes nonwovens competitive in a variety of applications.
Demand for personal hygiene nonwovens is projected to grow 1.4% per year through 2024, reaching $880 million, slowed by continued weakness in baby diapers. Gains will come almost entirely from increasing sales of adult incontinence products, supported by a growing senior population. Opportunities in the personal hygiene market will come from continuing product development aimed at increasing the adoption of these products and boosting market value. Areas of improvement include:
performance, particularly in comfort or absorbability
sustainability, such as offerings with recyclable or plant-based and biodegradable fibers
aesthetics such as more discrete and underwear-like adult incontinence products
Pandemic-Driven, Short-Lived Spike in Demand Unable to Boost Market in 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the US in early 2020, consumers stockpiled essential items, including personal hygiene products. The need to restock shelves caused a temporary bump in production activity. However, following the initial onset of the pandemic, panic buying stopped and supply and demand returned to more normal patterns, as these products are generally considered essential to their users. Despite the early bump, the market for personal hygiene products performed only modestly in 2020. Some consumers who searched for alternative solutions (e.g., cloth diapers and reusable feminine hygiene products, improvised disposable versions, and attempts to potty train) during the initial supply problem may not have returned to the market, especially if they were looking to limit shopping trips.
Senior-Friendly Products Expected to See Strong Growth Along with Target Demographic
Demand for nonwovens used in adult incontinence products will see strong growth, spurred by gains in the 65+ age bracket. Consumers in this age range are more likely than average to have limited mobility, difficulty using a restroom, or other reasons to utilize adult incontinence products on a regular or semi-regular basis. As the large baby boomer generation, aged between 55 and 75 years old as of 2021, continues to age, momentum in this sector will expand.
Sustainability & Performance Remain Key Drivers to Value Growth
Nonwovens suppliers continue to develop new products that offer the unique set of features and characteristics desired by both personal hygiene product manufacturers and consumers, particularly those that:
are softer and lighter weight, which increases their ability to be used in close contact with skin of longer periods of time
improvements in breathability and leak protection
Furthermore, hygiene products increasingly feature sustainable nonwoven materials, such as those made with plant-based fibers, which some consumers prefer in products that are in prolonged and close contact with their bodies.